- DUI Defense
- Criminal Defense
- Satisfied Clients
You are probably familiar with the term “domestic violence.” Under Utah law (pursuant to Utah Code Ann. § 77-36-1), there is no such named crime. But there are many crimes that are considered domestic crimes because they occur either in a residence or between persons who are related by blood or marriage, married, cohabitating (including roommates), or have children together (see Utah Code Ann. § 78B-7-102). Domestic crimes carry significant consequences both direct and collateral, and these types of cases can get very complicated because of the high emotions and stakes involved.
Because domestic crimes can escalate and get very complicated quickly, you need a competent, experienced criminal defense attorney to get involved in the case as early as possible. We will begin gathering the evidence and helping to build your defense right away.
There is no way to get out of a domestic violence charge just because the alleged victim “drops the charges.” In Utah, the prosecutor’s office may still choose to prosecute the crime even if the alleged victim no longer wants to press a complaint.
If you are convicted or enter into a plea in abeyance agreement for a charge of a Domestic Violence–related crime, you face several potentially severe collateral consequences:
Any crime classified as a Domestic Violence–related crime carries certain minimum mandatory penalties, such as completion of at least 16 hours of Domestic Violence counseling. A conviction for Domestic Violence can also be used against you as a basis for obtaining a protective order or in a divorce proceeding if the parties are having a custody dispute. Those convicted of Domestic Violence–related crimes may also be subject to enhanced or increased penalties if they receive future convictions for other Domestic Violence offenses.
A Domestic Violence conviction can be avoided in two ways. The first way is to go to trial and fight the charge. Often times Domestic Violence offenses are simply overstated by the victim. At the time the offense allegedly occurs, emotions are high, and the parties may speak out of anger rather than fact. Many Domestic Violence charges stem from situations where tempers flare but no real crime has been committed. Officers who respond to Domestic Violence calls typically believe the story of whomever contacts the police first without hearing both sides of the story. One of the most important parts to defending a Domestic Violence case is to identify and interview any other witnesses to the incident other than the victim or the alleged suspect. This could be a friend, family member, or even a neighbor who overhears the argument through the apartment walls. However, in many cases, the only witnesses are the alleged victim and the defendant, and there is often little or no physical evidence of a crime. In these cases it is often a battle of credibility between the victim and the defendant. A victim with a history of repeatedly calling the police may be less credible. Each case is different, but by fully investigating the situations, the parties, and the available witnesses and evidence, many Domestic Violence–related crimes can be defended at trial.
A conviction can also be avoided by negotiating a Plea in Abeyance to the charges. Pursuant to a Plea in Abeyance Agreement, your “guilty” or “no contest” plea may be held in abeyance, meaning that the conviction is not entered but rather you are placed on a form of probation under certain terms and conditions. If you successfully comply with the terms and conditions of the Plea in Abeyance Agreement, your charges can be reduced or even dismissed. However, if you fail to comply with the terms and conditions of the Plea in Abeyance Agreement, your conviction can be entered, and you will then be sentenced by the court.
Additionally, many justice courts and district courts have established formal Domestic Violence Programs that may also make you eligible for a Plea in Abeyance. Most Plea in Abeyance Agreements in Domestic Violence cases include requirements for anger management or Domestic Violence counseling, community service, payment of fines and fees, and possibly substance abuse counseling if the offender was consuming drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense. Not everyone is eligible for Plea in Abeyance, but we can assist in negotiating such an agreement to resolve your case.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime of Domestic Violence, you cannot apply to have the conviction expunged from your criminal record for at least three years after your probation has been terminated (probation for a misdemeanor Domestic Violence offense is typically 12 months from the date of sentencing). If you are convicted of a felony Domestic Violence crime, you cannot apply to have the conviction expunged from your criminal record for at least seven years after your probation has been terminated (probation for a felony Domestic Violence offense is typically 36 months from the date of sentencing).
At the Salt Lake City law firm of Schatz, Anderson & Associates, LLC, we focus exclusively on criminal defense. We provide defense services in both felony and misdemeanor cases in Salt Lake City and statewide, including the cities of Provo and Ogden. Our attorneys have more than 40 years’ combined legal experience, and we have built a reputation as ethical lawyers who are dedicated advocates on behalf of our clients.
At Schatz, Anderson & Associates, LLC, the initial one-hour consultation is always private and always free of charge. Our attorneys make jail visits when necessary, and flexible appointment scheduling is available. We handle many cases on a flat-fee basis, so that our clients can know up front the exact cost of their defense. Call us
Note: We only handle Utah cases. If you have a case or charge in another state, please contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in that state.